DOHA: The Taliban gave the first indication on Tuesday since coming to power that they would not make the full burqa compulsory for women as they did when they last ruled Afghanistan.
Under the militants’ hardline 1996-2001 rule, girls’ schools were closed, women were prevented from travelling and working, and women were forced to wear an all-covering burqa in public.
“The burqa is not the only hijab (headscarf) that (can) be observed, there is different types of hijab not limited to burqa,” Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the group’s political office in Doha, told Britain’s Sky News.
The burqa is a one-piece overgarment that covers the entire head and body, with a mesh panel to see through.
Shaheen did not specify other types of hijab that would be deemed acceptable by the Taliban.
Alongside concerns centring on clothing, numerous countries and rights groups have raised the alarm for the fate of women’s education in Afghanistan now that it is in the hands of the hardline militants who entered the capital Kabul on Sunday.
But Shaheen also sought to provide reassurance on this topic.
Women “can get education from primary to higher education — that means university. We have announced this policy at international conferences, the Moscow conference and here at the Doha conference (on Afghanistan),” Shaheen said.
Thousands of schools in areas captured by the Taliban were still operational, he added.
The previous Taliban government imposed the strictest interpretations of sharia, establishing religious police for the suppression of “vice”.
Taliban courts handed out extreme punishments including chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning to death women accused of adultery.